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Vayikra(Leviticus 1-5)

Forgive Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes - sometimes even big ones. In this week's Torah portion (Lev. 3:20) we see how God is ready to forgive even the biggest ethical mistakes once a person demonstrates that he sincerely regrets what he did. So too, we should be open to forgive those who sincerely regret their mistakes.


In our story, a kid faces the forces of fury and forgiveness.


"I am never speaking to him again!" Dave huffed as he crumpled up and threw the school newspaper into the schoolyard trash bin. His best friend, Ken - make that ex-best friend - is the editor of the paper. He printed the most embarrassing photo of Dave in an old kiddie superhero costume that he tried it on while they were going through some storage boxes in Dave's basement a few weeks ago.

Dave took a copy of the paper from the stack in the lunchroom for some relaxing after-lunch reading and instead, after seeing the picture, with its caption: 'Our School Rules!' had gotten the biggest stomach ache of his life.

The rest of the day, Dave slinked around the school with his head down in embarrassment, sure that everyone was looking at him and laughing at him behind his back. True, he had fortunately been wearing an eye mask in the picture, but it wouldn't take a genius for anyone who knew him to figure out who it was.

After the longest school day of his life, Dave, walking home by an out-of-the-way route where nobody would see him, finally got home.

He had just collapsed on the couch when the phone rang.

"Hey pal! Are we on for basketball today?" the familiar voice on the other end asked. Ken! Dave slammed the phone down.

It rang again.

"I think we got cut off..." Ken's voice said.

"Don't you ever call me again!" Dave growled into the phone.

"Wha ... why? What's wrong?" Ken sounded shocked.

"That humiliating picture of me you printed. How dare you! Goodbye!"

"Wait! But you said I could!" Ken pleaded.

"What are you talking about?!" Dave shouted.

"After you tried the costume on, we were laughing and I said to you 'this would look great in the newspaper' and you said 'go right ahead.' "

"Yeah, like I would ever say that in a million years!" Dave said, slamming down the phone.

As he stomped back to the couch, Dave's mind wandered uncomfortably back to that day he'd donned the costume. Somehow, what Ken said did sort of ring a bell. Could it be he'd actually said that when they were joking around? Maybe ... but still, even if he did, it was a lame excuse. How could he have possibly thought I was serious? Dave huffed to himself. Then again, how could he have known that I wasn't?

Dave reluctantly went to school the next day expecting to be a laughingstock. In fact, a couple of kids had snickered at him - but not as many as he'd thought. And one kid even shook his hand and told him he had a lot of guts for letting them print it.

At recess, Dave opened his locker to get his coat and a note that had been stuck through the air vent popped out. He read it:

I'm so sorry. I should have known better. Can we ever be friends again?-K

Dave was about to rip up and toss the note, when he decided to stick it in his pocket instead. What Ken had done was wrong - now Dave could see they both knew that. But maybe he could just write off Ken's newspaper mistake as 'old news' and maybe they could both just 'turn the page.'


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Dave feel at first when he saw the picture in the newspaper?
A. He was angry with Ken and never wanted to forgive him.

Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He still felt his friend had done wrong, but he was ready to forgive him.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. Sometimes people can make mistakes and do things that cause us problems. Yet if they understand that they've done wrong and truly regret it, we should try our best to forgive them.

Q. Do you think Ken did wrong by printing the picture of Dave? Why or why not?
A. Although Dave had told Ken it was okay to do it, he was obviously just joking around. And even if he wasn't, Ken, as a friend, should have been concerned enough about Dave not to print a picture that would likely embarrass him.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Is it enough to 'forgive,' and not 'forget'?
A. If someone is sincerely sorry for what he's done, we should try to forgive him and try to put the memory behind us. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't take precautions against being similarly hurt by him in the future.

Q. What does it mean to 'forgive oneself'?
A. Often a person berates and judges himself harshly for a mistake he or she has made. This behavior, rather than inspiring self-improvement, often just leads to despair. It is better to acknowledge our mistake for what it was - a mistake, and after committing to improve, we should forgive ourselves and move on with a positive attitude.


March 6, 2011

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Visitor Comments: 3

(2) Anonymous, March 24, 2011 4:40 PM

Self forgiveness is the hardest thing I have to do in life.

I have committed a felony theft offense and served time in prison. I paid all of it back to the victim; plus attorney's fees and accountant fees, and a hiuge income tax charge but I still am hauinted by the deed, and while othwers seems to have forgiven me I no longer see my self as worthy of respsect.

(1) Anonymous, March 8, 2011 4:13 PM

self-forgiveness vs despair

Self-forgiveness is my biggest problem. I have made some big mistakes that still grip me in the heart when I remember them. The source of my deepest despair, however, comes from the almost constant tape re-running fhrough my head that is narrated by my mother. She felt compelled to sequester me during every visit to tell me how displeased she was with me for reasons X, Y and Z. This continued through my adulthood to the last time I saw her before she died. I don't know how to get this out of my brain. She wasn't even aware of my biggest mistakes. Any ideas on how to rid myself of this guilt? I never felt that I could discuss anything with her, or to defend myself, because the threat of suicide was an integral part of our relationship. The suicide threats and leaving the house for hours at a time began when I was a small child (my memory goes back to age 4, and sometimes younger). I'm sorry. This is probably not the place to discuss this.

Anne, March 22, 2012 1:15 AM

Forgive Yourself!

Dearest Anonymous, If I would have seen your comment earlier, I would have immediately responded. You need to change the tape of your internal dialogue (what you say to yourself) from constant negativity to positive encouragement!!! My love, you will never be able to forgive yourself if you are incessantly "replaying" hurtful criticism. Remember that G-d loves you and has a unique mission that only you can fulfill. You cannot possibly achieve His will until you realize that your Mother's vocal displeasure of you was more of a reflection on her own insecurities and disappointment in herself. I am sorry that you are suffering, and that you did not hear complimentary and loving feedback that allowed you to feel good about yourself. We all make mistakes, but the beauty of making mistakes is being able to learn from them so that we don't repeat them. As this Torah portion states, G-d will forgive even big ethical mistakes as long as you sincerely demonstrate that you sincerely regret them. From your reply, you have already accomplished that! Remind yourself that G-d loves you, and that you are a worthy child of his....and please erase the damaged tapes!!! You are better than that, and I will pray for your healing. All the best, Anne

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